Alaa on the German “Job Center”

Alaa Muhrez talks about her experiences in finding a suitable job in Berlin.

© Alaa MuhrezI first learned German at the Hartnackschule, then I enrolled at the Humboldt-University as a guest student and to learn German. There I did C1. Then I did an internship in the controlling department, where I learned a lot, and then I found a job as a tax consultant. I found the positions on my own, via Facebook.

We had a consultation with a Job Center employee. Every Job Center employee wanted to paint our future without our decision. He believed that he knew everything and that we were refugees who knew nothing. I said that I wanted to take a course in accounting because I knew my area, but he said: ‘No, you should take a measure. Each action takes six months, using Word and Excel. If I know Word and Excel and all the Windows programs, why should I wait? The teachers showed me: ‘You can close the window here. I wasn’t there, but my girlfriend told me that she just went for a walk to make the time go faster. I studied at the university in Syria. Then I got a DAAD scholarship for a C1 German course, although the Job Center told me that we should work, not study. But I wanted to study. I would like to do a dual study, work and study at the same time.

I have a very bad feeling about the Job Center. […]. It is really a difficult feeling when you work for little money from someone else. I think that it is also unpleasant for Germans. When you go to the Job Center, people think that you don’t want to work at all. But for us as refugees, these were only steps. That’s why my husband immediately looked for work in a bakery or somewhere else so that he wouldn’t depend on the Job Center. The first employee was quite nice, but the second one just wanted to cause us stress. I was looking for several things so that I could develop and find a better job, but he just said: ‘This job is good, that’s enough’. But with tax consultants there is no development. And I think at my age I need new experiences. That was great at Telekom, there was new information every minute. But with tax consultants you can’t raise your head because you have to work all the time, but there’s no team spirit. I also worked as an accountant in Syria and Egypt, but it was a bit more interesting than in Germany. In Germany it was drier work.

But I think that also depends on me. I was more active. With the escape experience, a bit of my personality went away. Everything is normal for me, nothing is happy or something.

And it also depends on the weather: In Syria and Egypt the sun always shines, and here it is cold and dark when you go to work early in the morning.

In the wake of the crisis in Syria, Alaa Muhrez and her husband fled to Egypt after 2013. After the installation of the new president in Egypt, the problems for fugitives increased there. It became more and more difficult to find work, so Alaa and her husband decided to go to Germany. From Egypt to Italy she and her husband went by a small boat with 400 other people on it. They changed the boat several times. “If you got up, you couldn’t sit down again,” explains Alaa, that’s how crowded it was. After the dangerous journey, they arrived in Catania, Sicily. There their personal details were recorded. They knew that it could be difficult to apply for a residence permit in Italy to continue their journey, so they did not wait for their papers to be received.

They arrived in Austria by plane and from there to Munich. From Munich they were brought to Leipzig, and they were assigned an apartment in a nearby village. Alaa reports several incidents of discrimination she had to experience there. After more than a year, they came to Berlin, where after some time they found an apartment and work.

Alaa tells of her discomfort in contact with the Job Centers, which wanted to get her a job as quickly as possible and denied her further training even though she wanted to develop professionally. She says that working in Germany is more difficult for her than in Syria, and adds: “But I think that depends on me. I was more active. With the experience of escape, a little bit of my personality went away. Everything is normal for me, nothing is happy or something.”

The interview with Alaa Muhrez was conducted by We Refugees Archive in Berlin on June 30, 2020.